My experience as a Student Mental Health Champion at NTU

Black Lives Matter mental health event at Global Lounge

Written by Yomi Olusunle a current NTU Psychology MSc Student

I arrived in Nottingham, wide eyed, excited, curious and optimistic. I had planned what my master’s year was going to look like for so long that even when the pandemic struck, there was still a glimmer of hope within me that the world would quickly go back to ‘normal’ and I could pursue all my fantasies. I got lonely, scared, and nervous, I wanted a community, I wanted to belong, I wanted to immerse myself into a cause I was passionate about. Because to me what is the meaning of life when it is not in the service of others? So, as I scoured through the Nottingham Trent Student’s Union (NTSU) website looking for nothing in particular, I stumbled on the Mental Health page and found out that you could be a Student Mental Health Champion, I got elated once again, an opportunity to commit to helping others and finding community.

Now, let’s run it back a little, I have spent almost a decade committed to the work of mental health, demystifying the stigma, creating awareness, holding conversations, and educating others on mental health, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue the work I loved. Sadly, my joy was short lived as I saw that the deadline had elapsed, but I did not allow that deter me, I sent an email saying how passionate I was asking how else I could support and the staff members welcomed me in as a champion. There’s a popular saying among Nigerian parents which is ‘don’t let a school pass through you, also pass through the school’, and that is exactly what I set out to do. I wanted my impact felt at NTU and I channelled this through being a Student Mental Health Champion.

As a Student Mental Health Champion, I led two mental health walks, one was a global lounge walk and the other was a mindfulness walk. To this day, I still think about those walks warmly as I met most of my long time friends and really found my NTU tribe through the walks. More than this, I was better informed and more knowledgeable on the support structures NTU had available for students and I also explored the city of Nottingham better.

Mindfulness Walk around the city Arboretum

As time passed by, my attention was drawn by the lovely Leah (within the Student Support Services) to the culture gap in attendance of the mental health events, we discovered that BIPOC students were a bit reluctant to participate in mental health related programs and were even reluctant to get professional support even though they struggled a lot. So, I came up with the idea for the Black Lives Matter events. The goal was to educate, inform and hold space in response to the anniversary of the Black Lives Matter Protests and the death of George Floyd. We had conversations, built community, learnt, unlearnt and explored ways to manage our mental wellbeing considering the racial trauma associated with Floyd’s death. These series of events aimed at providing a respectful, safe space for open and honest dialogue among the NTU black community and our allies. They were successful and my heart was warm. During the role, I joined in on sessions like the Let’s Talk online peer to peer sessions, bonded with so many people and made lifelong friends.

Another activity which I also really enjoyed in my capacity as a Mental Health champion was writing for this blog, one piece was Managing Suicidal Thoughts which touched on a few signs of someone contemplating suicide, myths surrounding suicide and ways to manage suicidal ideations. The second piece which I put together was Why are we so scared of therapy? A Focus on the Black Community, this article explores the factors that limits black people from seeking therapy, racial trauma and encourages people within the black community to get help and not be scared of accessing the right support.

Overall, I had a very positive experience volunteering as a Student Mental Health Champion and committing to it through the last year, I made friends, led causes I was interested in and had such a great time. The team is also extremely incredible and supportive. If you’re thinking about it, please just join already!

If you’d like to sign up to volunteer as a Student Mental Health Champion at NTU or find out more head over to the NTSU website. The scheme is a collaboration led by NTU’s Student Support Services and the NTSU.

For help, advice and resources whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.

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